The owner of the club answers the burning questions of the fans and shares plans for the development of the club.
— Is the ninth place at the end of the 2021/22 season a success in the current circumstances of changing the coaching staff, an acceptable result or a failure, given that before the start of the championship you aimed the team to fight for a place in the play-off zone?
— We had certain ambitions, but, unfortunately, we started the season rather inexpressively. There were several offensive defeats in those opening matches in which we should have won. In the off-season, we carried out global work: a new coaching staff and sports director came. All of them were citizens of European countries, and in February, with the beginning of the well-known events, they were forced to leave the country three days before the resumption of the season. The team was accepted by Vitaly Panov, we finished the season in the first part of the standings. But, of course, one cannot be satisfied with the ninth place.
— How would you rate the work of Vitaly Panov in the spring segment? He came three days before the restart of the championship.
— With Vitaly Nikolayevich, we agreed on the terms of a new contract. He will continue to work with the team for the next two seasons. I think this is an indicator of his work and the degree of my trust in a specialist. After a goal is scored, the guys run, among other things, to the bench to the coach, and this is also a good sign. This suggests that there is chemistry between the coaching staff and the team. I am periodically present at the training sessions of the main team, watching the training process – in principle, everything suits me.
— You have repeatedly said that you experienced some of the strongest emotions in 2019 at a home match with KAMAZ, which ended with a score of 4:4. Was there a moment this season that overcame those feelings?
— Yes, in the home match with KAMAZ in 2019, we had to win back three times during the game. In October of the same year, there was a guest victory over the same opponent with a score of 2: 1, after which we were in the first place at the moment and, thanks to the suspension of the championship, reached the FNL.
This season, of course, there were such moments. First of all, I include the matches with Alania – with the strongest and most spirited opponent. At home, we won a strong-willed victory with a score of 2:1 in a highly emotional game. In Grozny, where I was also with the team, we were two goals behind, but turned the tide of the match, equalized the score and had a chance to win.
— Will the economic situation in the country affect the amount of support for the club and the goals that will be set for the club in the upcoming season?
— The situation in the country is really quite complicated: there is a drop in demand, production volumes, a slowdown in the processes of the financial system. We feel it – in our employees and factories. There is a reduction in orders for products. Nevertheless, we are taking a number of anti-crisis measures, and we look to the future with confidence. The most ambitious tasks are still set before the team. In the spring part, we have reduced some items of expenditure, there will also be optimization of the budget for the new season. At the same time, I think that the financing of the club for the new season will be at a level comparable to the objectives.
— Can you share the wishes that the coaching staff has for the new season?
— Of course, any coach wants to see the best players in his squad. We work on the transfer market. But regardless of the tasks set for the club, we want to create a balance of experience and youth – to see young players in the ranks of the team who will develop in our club.
— Taking into account the demand for Russian football players, will it not be a problem to keep the best goalkeeper of Olymp-FNL in the squad for the next season?
— This demand can be viewed from different angles. The same Spartak recently announced the liquidation of the second team playing in the FNL. This may be the first call. The situation is unstable, not all clubs were licensed on the first try, also due to financial criteria. I find it difficult to say to what extent the demand for Russian players will be maximum in the current circumstances.
There is interest in a number of our players now, but, in any case, we retain the backbone of the team, negotiations have been held with many key players, and agreements have been reached on playing in the upcoming season. There are a number of players who have left the team, but the roster transformation will not be massive. We plan to pointwise strengthen the composition.
As for Volkov, he is with us. Sergey is a quality player who, together with the club since its inception, has been the only one in Akron’s squad. He grew, developed, matured along with the club. He recently changed his agent, and we entered into negotiations with him, as we want to keep Sergei for a longer period.
— During the licensing process for participation in the RPL, the club declared the Solidarity-Arena in Samara as the main stadium. And what are the prospects for building a stadium in Togliatti? This is now the most pressing question from the fans.
— We are not refusing to implement a project to build a stadium in Togliatti. But in today’s realities, I think this issue is not paramount and temporarily inappropriate, since in principle it is not clear what can happen tomorrow, in a week, in a month. We hope that the situation will be resolved, we will return to normal life and accelerate the pace of the project.
— What is the status of the relationship between the club and the Kristall stadium now? It was planned to erect a manege there.
— Our main team trains at Kristall. Zhigulevsk is not a foreign city for us. We can say that he became a little familiar to us. One of our enterprises operates in Zhigulevsk – the Energotekhmash plant. As a socially responsible business, we would like to develop not only professional sports, but also youth football. We plan to create a branch of the Konoplev Academy in Zhigulevsk. The training process without classes in the winter will be inferior, therefore, in agreement with the head of the city administration, we decided to build an arena. We are allocated a land plot, before the New Year we plan to pour the foundation and carry out all the preparatory work. If everything can be done ahead of schedule, then the arena measuring 60×40 meters will probably be put into operation this year.
— FC Akron became the founder of the Academy, and the Holding will be engaged in its widespread development in the coming years. The key moment after which you realized that the Academy would still be part of Akron’s structure?
— For two years, we have offered the regional ministries various forms of cooperation and interaction for the development of the “Academy. Y. Konoplyova. As a result, they probably came to the only correct option – the conclusion of a concession agreement. Together with the Government of the Samara Region, we will actively engage in the development of young football players in the region.
— The program includes many points on the modernization of infrastructure, the construction of new sports facilities and office buildings – what exactly are we talking about and when will we be able to see the first changes?
— I am sure that what is included in the financial terms of the agreement will be multiplied by at least two. This is connected both with the rise in prices for building materials and with our ambitions. We want to do more and better. In the near future, we will present the concept of the development of the Academy to the general public.
Of course, there are priority tasks and “fires” that need to be extinguished: a full-size arena, which is sorely lacking and which we plan to build in 2022, and a new main field with modern artificial turf, and the construction of a sports and recreation complex, and the modernization of existing infrastructure facilities. In addition, I bought two land plots adjacent to the Academy, they have already been transferred to the region.
— Who will carry out the operational management of the Academy?
— Unfortunately, the candidate we were counting on and with whom all the conditions were agreed upon, at the last moment, for family reasons, refused. This position is currently vacant. We conduct interviews with potential candidates on a daily basis – we want to find the ideal manager for the Academy.
— Have you decided on the curator of the sports direction of the Academy?
— Many foreign specialists have left Russian football in recent months. But we attracted the Spaniard Efren Peteiro, who worked for about eight years as the chief methodologist at the Academy of FC Rubin. Now we are solving visa issues. We hope that during June he will join our friendly team and will be in charge of the sports block of the Academy.
— Is the creation of a second team in the FNL-2 with the participation of the Academy teams in the UFL competitions relevant in the near or long term?
— Not this season. In the future, we plan to build the entire club vertical – from youth to the main team playing at the highest level, then, of course, the second team will be relevant. With the general director of the football club, this season we focused on the main projects: the FNL team and the Academy, so that children can train in good conditions.